When I was a teenager one of my main media consumption activities took place on a Friday evening at nine o’clock when BBC radio Scotland would broadcast the top 40 music chart ( a whole forty eight hours before the Radio 1 equivalent ) and I would be ready with my cassette deck, finger hovering over the pause button ready to harvest my coming weeks listening. The tape would provide my opportunity to listen to the music I liked best. I had a ninety minute tape so had to curate carefully so that I got the important tracks I needed but also had to chance capturing some of the less well known tracks at the start of show whilst avoiding running out of tape before the big hits at the end of the show.
These days if my children want to listen to their favourite songs, they simply type it’s name into a browser and listen, it’s effortless. It’s the same with TV and film, it’s at our fingertips whenever we want. Don’t get me wrong, I love the easy access to music, movies, and news but I can’t help thinking that now that no effort is required in the quest for entertainment that it is at best dulling and at worst killing the sense of curiosity in our teenagers. I’m certain that if eating, drinking and and it’s associated waste products could de digitised to the same standard as entertainment my eldest son would never leave his bed!
So how best then to encourage our children to push their digital feeds away and develop a sense of wonder and curiosity for the world outside? We could have controlled digital blackouts but this just results in our offspring fleeing to the digital oasis offered by friends. At this moment in time I’m having the best results with just standing in front of the screen, blocking the view and offering a carefully balanced mix of threats and encouragement. This gradually seems to be bearing fruit. I’m sure I’ll return to this subject soon and provide an update.
Once again I find myself trying to work out what is different from mere mortals like myself and the captains of industry, dynamic business leaders, and the driven individuals who dominate todays businesses. Sure they’re hard working with a vision of what they want to achieve but I’m sure there’s more to it than that. I’ve read a few biographies of people who fit into this category and the overriding thought I have is that these people seem to be slightly damaged in some way, the friends and family closest to these visionaries seem to suffer at their hands and end they up being described as ruthless, arrogant and ignorant of the pain they cause whilst being publicly lauded for their talent and vision with the shortcomings being conveniently papered over.
All of which begs the question, am I prepared to behave in the same way for the sake of success and wealth, am I indeed capable of behaving in such a way or are these people slightly broken or damaged and they find themselves forced to be the way they are and success is just a by product? Maybe I’m simply just not capable of acting and behaving in this way and hyper success will always evade me. Perhaps I should be grateful I don’t have to deal with the demons that great success brings and that I should appreciate what I have, or is it just that I just haven’t found my niche or calling yet and when I do I’ll be able to effortlessly unleash my inner genius and ruthlessly achieve glory.
If we were given the opportunity to turn on our inner genius, sat down at a table with a big red button on it and all we had to do was press the button and in an instant we’d be confidently championing our latest work or invention forcing our way to the top of our chosen field irrespective of the fall out. I suspect most of us would hesitate wondering if the grass would be as green as we hoped and perhaps we’d be better off staying where we are. But more likely we’d want a compromise, this reminds me of the ex leper in the life of Brian who had been cured of leprosy without consultation and as such had lost his livelihood. When pushed with the idea the he could simply go back and ask to be uncured this was his response “Ah, yeah. I could do that, sir. Yeah. Yeah, I could do that, I suppose. What I was thinking was, I was going to ask him if he could make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy, which is a pain in the arse, to be blunt. Excuse my French, sir”.
So I suppose my reply here is could I be a bit of a genius in the middle of the week?
I was listening to a podcast recently where the main protagonist claimed that the telephone on their desk had been reduced to ornament status as a result of email, at first I saw this as a good thing, thinking of the increased productivity that an email has over a conversation. I’ve yet to meet any known ‘waffler’ who recreates this skill in email, added to that you effectively have a fast forward button that allows you to skip to the pertinent part of any email. But the more I thought about it the more I was concerned about tone, the main element which is difficult to get right in an email but which is mostly effortless in conversation.
I’m reminded of a relationship with a former colleague getting off to a particularly bad start via email. He sent me a straightforward request but the tone was arrogant and condescending, I immediately replied but made sure I gave as good as I got, I was after all a long serving employee and deserved a little respect. After a couple of weeks of acidic email tennis another blistering mail landed in my inbox, I started to compose a withering reply but stopped part way through and though, no I’m going to have this out with him in person and marched downstairs to his office and asked him to explain exactly what it was he wanted, he started to explain and in a few sentences he told me what he was trying to do. It was like the clouds parting to reveal the sun, I immediately understood what he was trying to do and that I had completely misunderstood the ‘tone’. I explained my position and my reticence to proceed and we were able to reach a compromise in a few minutes that we could probably never have done via email. After that I learned to disregard any perceived tone in his emails and simply dealt with the facts, as a result our relationship was much better.
All of this leads me to conclude that whilst there are great benefits to be had in speeding communication up via email, but you must understand the tone that is intended by the sender and often the only way to do this is by actually talking to that person and finding out what their default tone is. We should never accept email as a replacement to face to face communication.
It really is good to talk!